Erika Dalya Massaquoi,

Erika Dalya Massaquoi’s (AB’94, AM’94) fashion brand the OULA Company was influenced by the Black is Beautiful movement, experimental film, and Massaquoi’s own vintage clothing collection.(Photo courtesy the OULA Company)


A selection of UChicago alumni whose names are in the news.

Fashion forward

Erika Dalya Massaquoi, AB’94, AM’94, was awarded a grant from the Fearless Foundation, in partnership with Amazon, to grow her fashion brand, the OULA Company. Influenced by the Black is Beautiful movement, experimental film, and Massaquoi’s own vintage clothing collection, OULA’s vibrant retro designs feature globally sourced Ankara fabrics (African wax prints). The company’s mission highlights inclusivity, sustainability, and fair labor standards. In addition to receiving monetary support, the 75 Black women entrepreneurs awarded this grant are enrolled in Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator program.

Years in the making

Peter Smagorinsky, MAT’77, PhD’89, received a 2023 American Educational Research Association Lifetime Contribution to Cultural-Historical Research Award in recognition of his contributions to the field through publications, presentations, outreach, and service. In scores of books and journal articles, Smagorinsky has taken a sociocultural approach to English, writing, and literacy education and related social issues. The recipient of national and international awards for his teaching, he is professor emeritus in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia, where he has been on the faculty since 1998.

Doctor without borders

In April Robert J. Dempsey, MD’77, was honored with the Dr. Thomas A. Dooley Award from the Notre Dame Alumni Association for outstanding service to humankind. The Manucher Javid Professor and Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Wisconsin and codirector of the UW Stroke Program, Dempsey specializes in cranial neurosurgery and works to combat health disparities by training, equipping, and mentoring physicians in areas of need around the world. His research focuses on brain injury, vascular cognitive decline, education, and global health.

Alumni innovators

In May the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation announced the results of its 2023 Alumni New Venture Challenge. The first-place team (and recipient of $50,000) is the artificial intelligence software company Lambda Function, led by founder and CEO Tanmay Aggarwal, MBA’15. The company creates software that augments computer numerical control (CNC) machining with artificial intelligence. Its goal is to enable CNC machines to make decisions without human guidance or intervention. Other winning teams were Archer Career (led by Pam Schilling, MBA’00), Pyaari Weddings (led by Manali Kamaria, MBA’20), and Laxis (led by Eric Xiao, MBA’15).

With the Times

Starting this summer, two recent alumnae—Katrina Miller, SM’18, PhD’23, and Yiwen Lu, AB’23—joined the New York Times as 2023–24 fellows. Miller studied physics at UChicago and is a freelance journalist and essayist. Her work has appeared in Scientific American and Wired, and she will write about science for the Times. Lu studied economics and political science in the College and was managing editor of the Chicago Maroon. Most recently, she was a ProPublica emerging reporter. She will cover the Times’ technology beat.

Forbes features fintech founder

Sean Harper’s (AB’03, MBA’09) company Kin Insurance was featured on Forbes’s Fintech 50, the publication’s annual list of the most innovative private fintech start-ups, chosen from hundreds of candidates. Kin Insurance is a digital-first, direct-to-consumer home insurer. It is structured as a co-op owned by policyholders and is committed to providing affordable insurance in areas most affected by climate change. Launched in 2016, Kin now has 100,000 policyholders. In 2019 the University of Chicago invested in the young company through its Startup Investment Program.